Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Critical Cards

Noah has a mono-blue Delver/Skulker deck that is quite good and frequently harassing me. It's a good barometer for whether or not I have a solid deck but it's also a neat throwback to a time when Blue decks played a lot of draw-go and often ran the metagame. I managed to win this matchup-largely on the back of Cavern of Souls, which reminds me how relevant it is for countermagic to be kept at an appropriate level.

I lost game one with a graveyard full of countered spells: nothing I had in my hand actually made it to the table except lands. Not the cheap creatures (starting turn two) not Collected Company (cast when he was tapped out, countered by Daze), nothing but lands in play. Game two: I had a turn one Cavern and now my spells can resolve and Noah and I have to make decisions based on what spells I need to use Cavern for and those I don't or can't, like Collected Company.

Game three had Noah keeping a subpar hand because it had Spreading Seas and casting it on my turn 1 Cavern cut me off of my ability to get through countermagic and restricted my color. It made for a pretty interesting game that I eventually won, however I doubt I would have if he'd had a good hand with Spreading Seas. You can see the late game boardstate to the right.

The dice represent a bunch of tokens with Islandwalk from a killed Chasm Skulker. A timely Harmonic Sliver took Spreading Seas off the table and allowed me to stay alive long enough to generate slivers via Sliver Hive, remove Standstill without giving Noah an advantage and eventually cast Sliver Overlord. That meant I had enough damage on board to end the stalemate.


But the game wouldn't've worked for me at all without Cavern of Souls and I don't know that games of Magic should come down to: Can I force all of my spells to resolve or not?

Magic becomes a very different game with Brainstorm and Counterspell in the format and I wonder how many people really understand that. Every so often, I see people wishing Counterspell or better card draw would come into Blue and I can only assume that they do not understand what kind of restrictions deckbuilders are under when Blue has access to cheap countermagic and instant speed card draw. There are reasons why Magic is a more dynamic game now: more efficient creatures is probably at the top of the list, but formats like Legacy become more interesting because there are ways to have spells resolve through countermagic.

Even with those more efficient creatures and uncounterable spells, Legacy and Vintage skew blue and while those formats have undergone seismic shifts in the past six plus years (there's a viable creature deck in Vintage now! Manaless dredge! Things are kinda bonkers!) I don't believe anyone could suggest that the formats are balanced in color representation.

My personal belief is that Magic is a better game when every color has a viable way to perform. That means that non-blue decks should have ways to win. Which means that instant speed card draw and cheap countermagic in Blue need to be kept at a power level that can allow for other colors to flourish. It's too late for this to be true in Legacy but in Standard and Modern? That's entirely possible.

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